The parking lot at North Marion High School is relatively empty on a weekday evening in late July, but the sounds of basketballs ricocheting off the gymnasium floor ring through the vacant halls and the commons below.
Though the summer basketball season has concluded almost one month ago, that doesn't mean that the sport is over for the Huskies. It just means that head girls basketball coach Trevor Bodine is free to give his time to the next generation of athletes — middle school and elementary school girls whose parents have dropped them off at the high school for Bodine's annual summer camp.
"There's some good talent coming up, we just have to keep them engaged and keep them developing at the rate they have been," Bodine said.
The North Marion coach held camp for three hours each weekday evening last week, drilling athletes on the fundamentals of offense and defense while using the same drills and coaching techniques that he uses at the high school level.
The relative skill level of each player varies, from kids brand new to the sport to incoming eighth-graders who will likely be joining Bodine's high school squad in the next year or two. Because of the wide disparity in ability, Bodine has a difficult task of keeping things simple and engaging for new players, but relevant for the camp veterans.
"We throw a little fun in there and try to make it engaging for the kids," Bodine said. "We're doing a lot of skill development. Basically it's about fundamentals and getting better at the basic stuff. Really emphasizing what's important in the program."
Bodine is not alone. Though most of his varsity players are busy getting ready for the coming volleyball season, starting guard Mar Verastegui roams the basketball court, providing instruction and helping to correct and fine tune the form for the younger girls.
Verastegui is coming off a successful sophomore season with the Huskies, helping the team win 20 games and finish sixth overall in the final 4A tournament standings — not bad for a team transitioning to a new head coach and a new system.
"To finish sixth in the state is quite an accomplishment," Bodine said. "It's the furthest they've gone in 31 years, so they should be really proud of that accomplishment."
But Bodine has higher aspirations. Sixth place is only a few wins away from first place, and Bodine thinks that with the talent North Marion has at its disposal, the Huskies are in position to challenge for a championship if the cards fall right and the team works hard.
And that means putting in the time and effort in the off season, where the Huskies are coming off a summer league schedule in which the team went 17-4.
"We had a pretty good summer," Bodine said. "I played as tough of a schedule as we could. Mainly 5A and 6A as much as we could."
Summer is both a training period and an opportunity to experiment. The Huskies were often playing without a full squad, and that allowed Bodine the chance to play around with new rotations, try players in new positions and give younger players an opportunity to perform in high-pressure situations.
With his top three role players from the bench graduated from last year, Bodine will likely turn to sophomore forward Paige Martin and junior post Raymee Boese to help fill the void and give the Huskies stronger interior defense to pair with returning starters Lindy Wing and Hannah Kinniburgh — both seniors.
Standing at 6-foot and 6-foot-2, respectively, Martin and Boese were North Marion's two tallest players to finish the season on the varsity roster last season.
But their lack of experience kept them from cracking the varsity rotation. Instead, they developed their skills on the junior varsity team, growing their game and then taking that experience to summer league, where they both shined.
"Both had a really good summer and really developed a lot, especially Raymee," Bodine said. "I was really proud of her development over the summer."
With the departure of North Marion's bench rotation to graduation, Martin and Boese will likely be called upon to fill those roles, coming off the bench this winter to give the Huskies a strong presence under the basket.
Bodine was also adjusting to life without his starting wing, defensive ace Emily Scanlan, who will transfer to Wilsonville High School for her junior year. Exiting last season, the Huskies were in an envious position of returning their entire starting lineup. But without Scanlan, Bodine will have a big void to fill on the perimeter, where Scanlan's length and energy made her a disruptive force against opposing teams.
Fortunately for Bodine, the answer to Scanlan's departure has been playing for the summer team and will make an immediate impact this winter. Incoming freshman Mya Hammack had a strong summer for the Huskies and will make up for a lot of what North Marion will miss when Scanlan suits up for the Wildcats this winter.
"Offensively, she's already made up for the missing offense from Emily, but I'm going to miss Emily's defense and rebounding," Bodine said. "It's going to hurt us depth-wise for sure, but Mya is more than capable on the offensive end. She had a really good summer and is very poised."
Hammack is currently recovering from a broken foot after rolling her ankle in an AAU game after the summer high school season in June. The freshman will enter her first day at North Marion High School in a walking boot, but should be fully recovered when basketball season begins in November.
Still, it's another reminder that nothing is guaranteed in athletics. Injuries happen. Transfers happen. A strong program survives not by being happy with what it has, but by preparing for the future, and any one of the players at Bodine's summer camp could one day be the girl who sinks the winning free throws to clinch a championship trophy. All it takes is time, practice and dedication.
"There's going to be some good younger ones," Bodine said. "I've got a couple good years coming up that I'm excited about."